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Students Sitting Around Too Much? Try Chat Stations.

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You’ve probably heard of—and maybe used—learning stations in your classroom. With stations, teachers set up activities around their rooms, then have students rotate from station to station, performing each task. They are a wonderful way to provide variety and engagement in your classroom.

There’s only one real downside to stations—they take a LOT of time to set up. And because we’re all short on time, we may not use stations as often as we could.

So today I’m proposing a watered-down version of stations that keeps the movement, interactivity and variety while minimizing the prep work. I’m calling these “Chat Stations,” discussion prompts that students visit just like stations, but instead of performing a complex task, they just have a quick discussion. Chat Stations are incredibly flexible: They can be used for test reviews, ethical debates, exploring new material, even analyzing literature.

On top of their flexibility as a cooperative learning tool, Chat Stations can also dramatically improve whole-class discussions. Because students have fully explored each issue in the less-threatening Chat Station setting, they will be better prepared to participate in a larger class discussion next. And as we explored in a previous post, we need to do more to engage our less talkative students. Chat Stations offer another way to get them more involved.

Here’s a video demonstrating how Chat Stations work:

 

The more traditional kinds of stations—where students perform more complex or hands-on work—are still the gold standard for student engagement, but Chat Stations can be a great strategy for those times when you haven’t been able to prepare a “real” station. They still get students up and moving and breathe new life into your content. And there’s really no limit to how challenging your questions can be.

I’m pretty sure I haven’t invented anything new here, so if you’re doing something like this and have a tip or suggestion to add, please comment below.  If you try this for the first time, please share your experiences with us. ♦

 

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59 Comments

  1. Awesome…again!!! This is a twist on BS carousel and I am going to use it to go over section review questions before our chapter form. assessment! Please always send me your posts…I am sharing them at our next TSG…I will see about skyping too…our meeting was moved because this morning is our GREAT WALK OUT!!! Our amazing Science teacher(mrs. kinkle) is making us walk to school…it should be great! I am meeting groups all along the way! LOVE your posts…keep ’em coming! THANK YOU!!!

    • Thanks so much for commenting, Maura. I’m trying to get more interaction going on the site but it has been slooooowwwwww. The feedback is so important to me because I have no idea whether these ideas are useful or not. My fear is that people are reading and going, DUH! I already do that!

      I have no idea what a BS carousel is but the name cracks me up…Like something a bitter man might say to his wife when she starts complaining…”Time for a ride on the BS carousel!”
      So what is it, actually? 🙂

      • BS Carousel is Brain Storm carousel….Each group has one color every time a comment is in that color it is their contribution, it is great because they are accountable and they can add, change, correct, and even compliment on others’ contribution but NEVER REPEAT….they rotate every 5 mins…it is great for review or accessing prior knowledge or just getting kids to comment,,,At closure you review all the comments have kids rank them for the best. = best comments get points …or a HWK pass or points on the test…YOUR reply to me MADE me laugh out loud!!!
        This Friday coming( November 15th) is our TSG (teacher study group LOL), our focus is developing better communications with parents and the community? Any ideas would be great and if possible we can Skype and share your site… the Cult of Pedagogy!!! Think about it!!! Let me know ….it IS AT 7:30 AM!!!!

      • Cathy says:

        I love the idea of Chat Stations! With Common Core, we need to find a way to work more on speaking and listening skills. Chat Stations are a great way to engage students in focused small group discussions. I definitely plan on incorporating this strategy next school year!

    • Stacey Schwieterman-Crizer says:

      Thank you for sharing. I over heard a student say they wished we did this everyday. I love listening to them reason through the questions. Another great part is the when they help one another understand concepts!

    • Lemya says:

      I am so glad I found this site. In site based Adult Ed programs we lack quality professional development and tools that might be present in Day School (Elem, Middle, H.S) this site is SO helpful- infusing life and new strategies into my daily teaching. I learn so much here…thank you!

  2. Abby says:

    Love this. A great way to take a simple, boring (but necessary) worksheet and make it more interesting, and the kids will never be the wiser that they’re just doing review questions.

    I do stations all the time (usually with manipulatives), and I have one more bit of advice to add: I agree that you should have more stations than you need (and the duplicates are a great idea), but it’s important to have the kids go IN ORDER numerically. I have HS juniors and even they get confused matching station number to paper number… Also, one time I let them go willy-nilly to stations they hadn’t visited, and in the last 5 minutes of class I had four groups lined up to complete one station. Ugh. If they stay in order, this doesn’t happen.

    I’ve also used the computer as a station, where the kids have to look something up. Adds more novelty.

    • That’s good advice, Abby. Maybe the recording sheet doesn’t have to have numbers on it at all; just a place for students to actually write the station number once they get there?

      Using the computer as a station is fantastic. I’ve done that too and my students have always seemed more excited when they got to that station. Now that iPads and other smaller devices are becoming more a part of classrooms, it should just get easier to build in more work like that. Thanks so much for contributing.

      • Cathy says:

        I teach 7th grade ELA and set up stations near the end of the year. One of them was doing Vocabulary.com on laptops.

  3. Abby says:

    As I write this, I am doing stations!! I took a 25-question review sheet, printed it out in a big font, cut the questions up and taped them face-down around the room. I gave the kids their answer sheets on clipboards. I have a very small class right now so it’s manageable (they’re mostly special ed). One girl keeps saying, “This is so cool! This is so fun!” and doesn’t even realize that she’s just doing a worksheet. “We get to like, walk around!”
    WIN.

    • That is fantastic. I’m so glad it’s working! You never know if your ideas are going to go over as well for other people, so this is really good to hear. Thanks for letting me know!

  4. I love this idea! I’m literally doing stations right now! My problem with stations is that some stations end up taking longer than others. I still haven’t found a good way to “time” them so they all take about the same amount of time. Any ideas?

    • Yes! The best way to prevent this from happening is to create more stations than groups. So if you have 7 groups, set up 9-10 stations; that way, groups that finish faster can move to an empty station. If you don’t have enough content to create that many stations, duplicate a few of the more “slow” ones. Hope that helps!

  5. Felicia Morrissey says:

    This is a great tool – I will be using it to help my students work through our current novel. 🙂

  6. tonik says:

    I came across your “Chat Stations” via World Language Classroom Resources. What a WONDERFUL tool. I have recently been thinking about adding stations in to my (someday) classroom, and this is a wonderful way to incorporate that, minus the prep work. Thank you so much for the idea, and the video was great! Often times I skip videos because it just takes too long to listen to someone tell me what I could read so much faster. But your visuals perfectly and succinctly showed how the stations should work. The management ideas you gave at the end of the video are much appreciated as well. Thanks so much! I look forward to exploring more on your site.

    • Hi! Thanks so much for commenting. I’m really glad you found the video to be helpful. When you try it with your own students, come back and tell me how it went. I love to refine these strategies with more tips from people who are trying them in their classrooms. I also hope you enjoy the rest of the site, too!

      • i personally think that this is a really stupid idea you never know who the students will meet its just a matter of who those students talk to and if they try it at home without a grown-up knowing it wont help at all because they are talking to strangers that you dont even know so that doesnt help either sorry for the negative comment but…………!!!!

        • Hi Lovepeace. Just to clarify, this happens in school, within a classroom, with other students — the students interact with their classmates, not strangers.

          • Ms.Gonzalez they are chats online wouldn’t that be dangerous for them to be doing that!!???!!??

          • MS.GONZALEZ PLEASE REPLY TO ALL OF MY OTHER COMMENTS PLEASE :/

        • Hello again! These are not online chats; they are face-to-face conversations that happen in class. If you watch the video above, it should be pretty clear. It’s a very simple, very low-tech strategy. Please let me know if you have other questions!

  7. Kim says:

    My team use a version of chat stations, but instead of the students moving around as a group, each student gets a slip of paper with their own personal station schedule (eg. Kid 1 has 1/2/3/4, Kid 2 2/3/4/1, etc) this means that they work with a different group at each station and helps to give everyone a chance to work with everyone else. We find it works really well and fosters a lot of respect amongst the kids. It’s also useful for making sure everyone gets to work with everyone else – we’re open plan with 75 kids and 3 teachers so if you don’t plan for it, its easy for some kids need to hear each other’s ideas!

    • kim i would rather use your strategy rather than the chatting that idea is safe and secure so i like it it is also very important for kids to interact with each other otherwise they will never be able to talk to people in school without being nervous and/or scared!!!!!!

    • Sorry, Ms.Gonzalez but if you look up on Google ONLINE CHATS no additional stuff or anything you will not get anything good Sorry,Ms.Gonzalez if i misunderstand you!!!

  8. KIM PLEASE READ ↓↓ I LOVED YOURE STRATEGY my kids loved it to so know the kids are asking constently can we do this whenever 4-5 kids are finished with whatever they are doing i’ll let them IT IS AMAZING the kids actually wanna interact know i love this strategy if anymore AMAZING ideas please comment more down below ↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓

  9. hello, i was just wondering when the next post is going to be on because im getting bored and i have nothing to do!!!!!!!

  10. ok thank-you

  11. The momna says:

    I love this idea. I will be switching to 5th & 6th grade reading and was flabbergasted as to how to set up stations with those grades. Awesome and sounds really easier to do. Do you do these everyday with different content? I am attempting to do novel studies. As a first timer at this I really want my scholars to be engaged and keep it fun. Here’s to a new year and I shall be checking out other content on your page.

    • This was not a strategy I did every day, but I think that is certainly possible. I could see you setting up permanent stations and just switching out the task or questions — that would allow you to make adjustments until you got the placement of the stations just right in terms of crowd flow and space for talking or doing. Come back and tell me how you ended up using this and how it went!

  12. Miranda says:

    I love this idea, great way to make simple activity more engaging. I can’t wait to try it with my kids! Thanks for sharing.

  13. Mercy says:

    Love this idea! I am a 5th grade ELA teacher and am always looking for fun ways to have my students learn. You are absolutely right about how students will learn by changing the format of their everyday lessons.I like the way that the students can discuss or “chat” about the different topics and use higher order thinking skills to be able to answer the questions posed.
    Thank you for sharing!

  14. Tazmin says:

    We use these but call them Gallery Walks. Can be used for questions, to look at images/illustrations, projects, anything you want all the kids to see but want to get them off their rear ends and moving! Great concept!

  15. K. Fallang says:

    I can’t wait to try this with my high school French students! I was thinking you could split the class in half and have one half be stationed in various places in the room. The other half would travel from one stationary person to the next. They could each have a paper with short discussion prompts on it that they had to check off once completed. Lots of mini-conversations with half as much movement! Thanks for a great idea!

  16. melissa eggleston says:

    Thanks so much for the idea! I am a pre-k teacher who believes that literacy workstations are a very important part of the day… and YES they take a while to set up. I am going to try this in my listening station this week. We will read Lyle the Crocodile as a class in shared reading, then it will go into workstations. I will not make a recording of myself reading it this week! Yeah! I will tell them that they need to take a picture walk through the book and have a chat and listen time in that station. They are a great bunch of kiddos, so I am pretty sure that it will work! Thanks Melissa

  17. Allison Nicol says:

    Hi! Love this idea. I teach nursing and we use “stations” for nursing skills. You are right–they take ages to set up. I like your idea of having students “discuss” a concept or solve a problem at each station. It creates a nice alternative that allows students to learn from each other and work on their critical thinking skills. I am going to suggest adding chat stations to our lesson plans…thank you!!

  18. kristy says:

    I love this idea and will be trying it out with my 7th graders! Is there accountability like a way to record their work or discussion points as they go from station to station? Thanks!

  19. Moodyl says:

    This sounds like a great idea! I teach 2nd grade and would like to know if anyone has tried it with younger students.

  20. Lisa says:

    I use stations, as my district calls gallery walks, at least several times a week. I teach high school students with mild disabilities and I photocopy questions/prompts on different colors (3), which range in difficulty level and then I assign groups by color, group one has to do 3 blue, 2 purple, and 1 red. Students have no idea that the questions are differentiated!
    Another easy tip is that I put the questions in clear picture frames… The ones you slide in and are do,d at the dollar store and I arrange these around the room. Students love to see them set up when they come in!

  21. shatha says:

    Hello,
    This is great! Can you tell me what program you used to make the video you posted? I’d like to create videos like this for my classroom. Thank you!

    • Hey Shatha! I created slides (using a lot of the animations feature) in PowerPoint, then filmed them in slideshow mode with Camtasia Studio.

  22. Love this idea. I definitely want to try this with my eighth grade science and language arts classes. One idea would be to have tokens for each student that they lay down to talk. They have to use all of their tokens during discussion. This would keep one student from dominating the discussion and ensure even the quietest student participates.

  23. Berniek says:

    Thank you! This is actually a workable thing for my large college classes! I’m gonna give it a try after the Christmas break.

  24. Love this idea as a formative assessment tool! I co-teach a Global Studies course, and I can see this as a great way to initiate a variety of conversations in my three-week session for the course.

  25. I like this idea. I have been trying to get our teachers to try stations, but they are very intimidated by both the work involved in planning it and how to manage it. (It is tough giving up control) This can be a nice way to test the water.

  26. Chris B says:

    This is great – always delighted to find FL practices. I’m new to secondary ed. having spent 10 years teaching college. Most of my classes will do fine with this, but there are some (who would benefit greatly from this type of activity) who will be near impossible to keep on class in and in target language. I suspect this is a classroom management issue. With certain groups, it feels nigh impossible. Partly, my room is very small — which means creating distance between the socially exuberant is a challenge. Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Deena Swenson says:

      Hi Chris B,

      I teach Spanish in grades 7-8 and I find that keeping students talking in the target language is part classroom management and part student motivation. Many students want to know whether what they’re doing will count for or against them. I set up procedures early on in the year so that students know what’s expected when we do activities that involve moving around the room. I also let students know that activities like “Chat Stations” will be calculated as part of their “Interpersonal Communications Skills” grades or a “Participation” grade. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt and assume that all of my students are trying to speak the target language. As Jennifer mentions in the video, you also have the oppportunity to spend some time talking with individual groups and students. Even if they’re only using the target language while you’re right there with them, they’re still using the target language. I hope that I’ve made some sense. Have a great day!

      Deena

      • Connie says:

        Hi, I am a former 1st and KG teacher but am in need of a demo lesson for a social studies /science split for 6th grade. I love the idea of chat stations, based on current events for a 20 minute demo but am concerned about the management piece since this will be a new set up for all of us. However, I do think the peer to peer discussions would be great! thoughts?

      • Carol says:

        I did something really simple to keep life in the TL. I posted a timer on the board and cybernetic my students to stay in French for ad long as they can. I started the timer and them moved around worth a wireless mouse. As soon ad i hard English, i stopped the clock and recorded the time. I had them compete with my other 2 classes or try to add up to a full hour, each day adding on. It worked so well that my level 2 students would leave class conversing in French. This could easily be incorporated.

  27. Awesome idea! We are going to have Chromebooks in my classroom this year, and I may just have numbers (no questions/prompts) around my room. When students get to that number, they can find the corresponding question/prompt on a Google Doc or Form. This will be a good way to get students talking with each other instead of individually sucked into their screens. Thank you!

  28. Leah W says:

    I tried this today. It was awesome! Love your website 🙂

  29. Christy says:

    I love this idea! I’m an English teacher at a small private school with 12 students per class. I’m going to implement it this week. I’m going to have six stations and let them choose three to move through throughout the period. The first will be a self-directed learning station on sentences and fragments. The second one will be a writing prompt. The third will be riddles. The fourth station will be read and respond. In the fifth station, students will watch a short video and write a response. They will also have the choice of a sixth station which will be to read silently for the class period and then write a reader response. Thank you so much for this wonderful idea!

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